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Jail populations in cities have started to shrink, but in rural areas, rapid growth continues.

While most people picture big jails as phenomena of big cities, a recent analysis by the Vera Institute of Justice of 45 years of jail data demonstrated that, instead, jails are growing in rural America.Jacob Kang-Brown and Ram Subramanian, Out of Sight: The Growth of Jails in Rural America (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2017), 6. In recent years, the largest and most sustained growth in local jail populations has taken place outside major urban centers.Jacob Kang-Brown and Ram Subramanian, Out of Sight: The Growth of Jails in Rural America (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2017), 6.

Beginning at the turn of the new millennium, as jail incarceration rates in urban areas began to level off or decline, jail incarceration rates in rural counties experienced a boom.Jacob Kang-Brown and Ram Subramanian, Out of Sight: The Growth of Jails in Rural America (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2017), 6. Today, rural jails have the highest rates of growth in pretrial detention in the country, despite the fact that crime rates in rural America remain significantly lower—property crime rates in rural areas are three-quarters those of urban areas, and violent crime rates two-thirds.Jacob Kang-Brown and Ram Subramanian, Out of Sight: The Growth of Jails in Rural America (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2017), 6.  The jail incarceration rate in urban counties is now actually lower than in most other counties.Jacob Kang-Brown and Ram Subramanian, Out of Sight: The Growth of Jails in Rural America (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2017), 6.